Monday, July 28, 2008

daddyland On Theatrical INteraction

Over at Don's place, a commenter named daddyland has laid out pretty clearly some of the things that many of us have been saying for a while about liveness, presence, and interaction:

In response to Don's "Exploring Money Assumptions in Theatre," daddyland wrote:

A couple thoughts...

I am not a theatre industry person, I choose to go directly to film/tv. I could even see 20 years ago that all my drama/theatre profs/coaches were feeding me a line of bull that the theatre would be relevant in 15 years. I had just gotten my first taste of the internet and I knew things were about to change radically.

The theatre isn't relevant or accessible to the average man nowadays. And they don't want their taxes going towards it either. It simply cannot compete on any level with huge plasma tvs and the Home Theatre/Internet connected TV.

I saw Metaluna on last Thursday. I thought it was brilliant. The performances were all outstanding even though at times I struggled with the Dada elements. Lisa Fairmain's performance was particularly titilating and worth the enormous effort alone it took to find a sitter for the kid, drive into the city in this horrendous construction traffic, and then find parking. But I would have never heard about it if I didn't know Brownlee. Now I am telling all my friends, but my angle is the whole "Lisa F." thing. Otherwise, I am faced with the whole "why should I go to so much trouble?" question. I am selling sex here, but they get much more than that with your show.

Theatre is the ape in Darwin's theory of evolution to what the human is to the Home Theatre TV in most American's eyes. I am afraid the most effective change of tactics would be to become a bunch of terrorists and completely destroy the entire television/internet infrastructure. With no other entertainment around, Americans will flock to their local theatres, and start creating their own troupes.

All that said, I believe the focus should be on the experience an audience member can have in live theatre. It can be truly enthralling, as it is with Metaluna.

IN response, RLewis had written that theatre wasn't in competition with TV and film and plasma TV screens, but with live events such as baseball. "If digital TV were really the competition, then there would be empty stands at our ballparks (our real competition!), and that certainly isn't the case. Somehow folks manage the construction filled roads, parking nightmares and mass mobs at the gates to see the local teams play. So, clearly the Ape here is just to throw you off the trail."

daddyland responded:

I believe we soon will see empty stands at ballparks. My cousin recently bought two 50inch Plasma TVs. One for the living room, one for the bedroom--to watch sports in close up High Def. His comment to me was he loved the group spirit at baseball/football games, of which he had season tix to both the Bears and Sox, but seeing the sweat drip off a losing pitcher's brow was far more enjoyable to watch. He is moving on from one kind of experience--an experience which I still think is valid.

Market forces are deciding that the digital TV experience is more exciting across the board. That is where marketing comes in to solve your problem.

It may make you feel sick to do this, and a true betrayal of the craft, but unless it is titilating, live performance/theatre arts perhaps needs to be expressly interactive with the audience. It can take a variety of forms and concepts. Metaluna is titilating and does involve the audience. That is a start. Take part of the set home as a piece of art for your house? That's cool... How about we get crazy and have an interactive chat session with the cast? How do you integrate Web 2.0 technologies into the marketing plan? Don's video interviews with the cast are an example of thinking out of the box to market a show. But even then, his audience was limited...he was talking Dada to other industry people. I didn't know my baby's "Dada" from "Stage craft 'Dada'" until last Thursday. I don't think you have to be running an Improv Olympics or comedy show to get the audience to interact. Get clever. People want an interactive experience--that is what digital life is all about--it is not just being lazy and staring at a screen. I would counter it is the exact opposite of that.

I think the key here for theatre is not evolution, it's transformation. And it will require outsiders to your clique to help you determine where you go. You must do it now and work the hard problems before it is too late. The culture is changing rapidly.

I don't buy the titillation thing -- that's a function of liveness, in my opinion, just a more obvious element. But I think he is right about interaction, and right in not limiting it to Improv Olympics and other forms that are often thought of when interaction is mentioned. It isn't about voting for the ending as in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, although that certainly kept an otherwise uninspired musical running. It might mean creating a forum for people to interact with each other and/or with the artists -- again, not the typical Q & A, but real interaction. After all, according to a Wallace Foundation study, by far the strongest motivation for attending the theatre is "Socializing." We can fight that, taking Goethe's attitude that the audience should be seen and not heard, and Wagner's attitude that the audience shouldn't even be seen (so he turned the lights off), or we can ask ourselves just what that "socializing" means and what ways can we provide social interaction. Dialogue promotes community, and if you can create a community around your theatre, no plasma TV's are going to destroy you.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

No comments: